MPs to investigate Health Sciences University appointment of VC

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Parliament’s Higher Education Portfolio Committee is to investigate the appointment of Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Mbati, who was allegedly appointed to the position despite allegations of sexual harassment against him. News24 reports that this emerged at a virtual sitting of the committee with the Commission on Gender Equality. MPs heard that the commission’s recommendations after investigating allegations of sexual harassment against Mbati were never implemented.

He was accused of sexual harassment by Professor Thidziambi Phendla during his time as vice-chancellor of the University of Venda. Phendla submitted a complaint to the commission in 2012 alleging she was sexually harassed on several occasions by Mbati between 2008 and 2010. After an investigation, the commission in its December 2014 report found the allegations to be convincing and the failure by the university to discipline Mbati was a direct contravention of the university’s policy on sexual harassment.

The report recommended a formal disciplinary inquiry against Mbati. The court ordered the university to implement its own sexual harassment policy by calling for a report of the mediator, Lavery Modise, who was appointed by the university to mediate the allegations.

The chair of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science & Technology, Philly Mapulane, in a statement, claimed: “From the information available to the committee, it’s quite clear that Prof Mbati has employed a combination of stratagem, which included litigation and possible collusion with the University Council, to avoid being held to account for the serious allegation of sexual harassment.”

Although Mbati sought to review the commission’s report in the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg), he failed to set aside the recommendations of the report but only succeeded in gagging certain portions of the report.

Full News24 report

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